Sunday, October 16, 2005


In Which She Counts to 29 (again)...

She probably wouldn't want me to tell you this, but Her Lovely Self celebrated a birthday this past week.

I should say: Art Lad, the Brownie and I celebrated her birthday. Her Lovely Self just sort of endured it.

I am four months older than my wife and you'd think the fact that she will always be younger than I would be some kind of comfort. But no. Every since she turned 31 (why 31? I have no idea) she has acted like celebrating the passage of another year is preferable only to root canal or a pelvic exam. I understand, I do. As you get older--and especially once you have kids--your birthday doesn't seem to quite measure up as a big event the way it used to, and certainly not compared to the experience of the little people you've made and for whom birthdays are still a novelty.

By the way, I reserve the right to have a different opinion about this when I turn 40.

But HLS goes beyond mere indifference. She insists she really would rather not celebrate her birthday. She doesn't want presents or cards or flowers or anything. She says.

But I'm not a total moron. Yeah, she might mean it, but this might just be a test. Just because you've been dating someone for 13 years--and been married for 11 of those dating years--doesn't mean your significant other won't test you.

Which is why I was up til 1 AM baking cinnamon muffins (a particular favorite of hers as breakfast foods go), after driving off to the distant 24-hour grocery store to get eggs (so useful in the baking of said muffins) and that French vanilla flavored coffee that she likes so much (and that I personally can't stand).

Then I wrapped a few presents, which is a big test too. Give her too many and you get in trouble for wasting money (and also, subconsciously, she's thinking: He has no idea what to get me, this man I've married, this man whose children I bore, he has no clue. He's just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks). Don't give her enough and, well, game over. No matter what, you're still in a dangerous place, with pretty much even odds on either hitting the jackpot of fucking up big.

I gave her three presents. This year, they were:

--A gardening book she didn't know I knew she wanted.

--Some festively wrapped repair materials for two toilet-tanks. Sure, make a face if you like, but she's been complaining for ages about the upstairs toilet not flushing unless you hold the handle all the way down (and for five minutes), while the downstairs one just gurgles a lot. I figured out what the problem was and determined that I am just handy enough to solve it. Obviously, the toilet-tank repair materials are not the gift. The unbridled pleasure at watching me work for her--without even being told--is the real gift.

--Oh, the cinnamon muffins were the third thing. I know, cop out.

But what can I do? HLS has always been notoriously hard to get presents for. And I comfort myself that at least I'm not as thoughtless as my old neighbor who, when his wife turned 30, completely forgot. Was only reminded when they went to visit his parents and wondered why his mother brought out a little cake for her daughter-in-law and began wishing her many happy returns. On the way home, he pulled into Wal-Mart, claiming he needed some motor oil, and made her wait in the car (in July). He gave her three gifts too: a large bag of peanut M&Ms, a brick of modeling clay (later he said she'd wanted a bird-bath in their back yard. Apparently he thought a 3-by-6-inch brick was sufficient for her to mold one herself) and the official motion picture soundtrack to the movie Twister, which he remembered that she liked. He found this CD in a bargain bin, by the way, and never bought her the DVD, because that was $14.44, whereas the CD was only $3.99. Did I mention this guy was cheap? Also not the most forward-thinking of men. Seeing as he and his wife got divorced a few years later, I'm thinking he should have sprung for the DVD.

No, I've never forgotten--actually can't imagine being the kind of man who would forget--and yes, I always try to put some thought into what I do for her, however meager it may seem (cinnamon muffins may not sound like a big deal, but I made them from scratch and she ate them all with her French vanilla coffee).

But on another level, I must admit that no matter what I do, I'm a prisoner of my past. Because one year--in fact, the first year Her Lovely Self and I were together to celebrate her birthday--I concocted a treasure hunt that sent her across the city of Chicago, tracking down clues and presents before finally ending at a candlelit table for two at a very hard-to-get-into restaurant where I (and a handful of flowers) were waiting for her.

Yeah, I just might have raised the bar a little too high that time.

But I had my reasons for wanting to make a big impression. For one thing, Her Lovely Self was dating someone else at the time. For another, she was supposed to be having dinner with him that night...


My husband and I are quite the opposite. He always get me the coolest stuff (this year, even though my birthday isn't for another 25 days 14 hours 02 minutes, it was some sweet Depeche Mode concert tickets) and I never know what he wants. I just take him shopping. It's either technilogically-related or...wait, nope. It's always technologically related.

Tell your wife I feel her pain. In 25 days 13 hours 52 minutes I will be feeling the same way about my birthday.
Wow, I did not see the ellipses coming this time...

...even though I should have learned to expect them by now.
Good story, MM...I want to hear the ending of that date. I hope no car trunks were involved this time. :)

My birthday is this coming Friday. I'm actually celebrating it this year! And it's not really for a significant number (this will be my 37th.) I suppose it depends upon my mood...some years, I ignore it, other years, I party.
I think you should give yourself more credit - the vanilla coffee and cinnamon rolls are pretty cool - as is the book. It always means more to me when people remember things that I like than if they go out and buy something random, no matter how huge that random thing is...although, for the record, I would not be above accepting a huge and random gift.
I don't know. I think I think I agree that by her saying she doesn't care, she might be baiting you.

Take evasive action! Green group stick to sector 47! It's a trap!
I think you did very good on the gifts.

Can't wait for the rest of the story. Yeah, this one too, but mainly about what happens when you try to fix the toilets. :)
I'm with HLS. DO NOT celebrate the fact that I am a year older.

As usual, your gifts show sweet thoughtfulness and are perfect, IMHO.
If you ever get stuck for a present idea, here's a tip: Jewelry always fits. Doesn't matter what kind, earring, necklace, bracelets or rings, birthstones, precious/semiprecious, gold or sterling....and.... diamonds are a girls best friend.

Happy birthday HLS! Remember, we're not getting older, just better.
I think the gifts were very thoughtful! And you didn't spend a ton of money on silly things she doesn't need, that's what I like. I think a small gift from the heart (favorite breakfast hand made) is much better than expensive diamonds anyday.

Happy birthday HLS, I am totally with you about trying to ignore those once a year deals. However, my family will not let me forget either.
I agree with Michelle's sentiment-- What you gave her was thoughtful, and from the heart. I bet she really felt appreciative of it too!
Oh and Hey! Don't underestimate the importance of the Toliet Tank Repair idea!
Birthdays-love them. No so much for the presents but the fact that I have made it one more year.

I think your gifts were totally appropriate and thoughtful. I would love anyone of them, including the coffee. However, I will also agree with Sharfa-diamonds are a girls best friend :)
My hubby is the same way as HLS. He does not like to even aknowledge his birthday, this year (a big "milestone" year this year too) he actually FORBADE me to plan anything for him or get him anything. Fortunately perishables in the form of lots of awesome gourmet whole-bean coffee and chocolate covered espresso beans do not count, so that's what he got... a big basket of that ;-). I entitled it "The Gift of Never Sleeping Again".
i think you're safe. you actually put thought into things/actions that she would enjoy, so you should rack up the bonus points.

a clarification of the sparkly gift idea: if HLS gardens, and she must or you wouldn't be buying her gardening books, sparkly rings probably aren't the best idea. then they end up ground into the dirt or lost or the stones fall out or she has to remember to pry them off her fingers before she goes outside. go with earrings or necklaces.
I had a husband who gave big bling.
If he had ever put the thought into his gifts that you did, we would still be married.
You rule!!!
How come every other man on the planet except my husband knows that when a women says "Don't get me anything" that it really means "surprise me". I made the mistake of saying that to my husband around my thirtieth birthday. 6 years later and still no presents :(
I think your ideas were sweet and thoughtful, which counts for a lot when you've been married for a long time. Your first birthday date sounds extremely romantic and I can't wait to hear the rest of the story, but my bet is that she never went on another date with the other guy ;)!
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